The following is an almost un-edited version of how Len described the parish of Tatworth & Forton, where he lived for much of his life. It was first published in the parish council magazine in 1994.
His target audience was the newcomers to the area, and the only editing I have performed is to allow it to be more readable by you, the worldwide audience. The words, style and content are his.
The Story of Tatworth & Forton, Briefly Told
ur communities have unusual origins, for they carry neither the shape of the traditional village nor the marks of an industrial settlement.
ur parish was once part of the ancient manor of Chard, known first when in the possession of a certain Bishop Giso of Wells in 1060. Manors were divided, for effective government, into 'tithings', and Chard manor had five of these divisions; Oldchard, Crimchard, Forton, Tatworth and South Chard. Later, the borough of Chard was carved out of the middle of the tithings.
ur present parish is made up of three of such tithings, Forton, Tatworth and Southchard, whose boundaries have remained more or less unchanged for over 600 years.
ur parish land is rich but varied, and has supported thriving communities from times before written history. Men of bronze age times lived here; a funeral urn with a collection of beads was unearthed in the 'Kents' area some 150 years ago and the finds are on display in Chard Museum. Iron age men had their settlements to the west on the high ground towards Chardstock and there a defence camp and boundaries can still be traced.
he veterans of the Roman armies settled here too, and one built his substantial 'villa' or farmhouse by Saint Margaret's Lane. Part of this building was excavated in 1967 and pottery and paving found there are also in the Chard Museum.
axon villages or hamlets left few signs of their occupation, the settlement sites probably moved around somewhat, and the earliest building of more recent centuries is the chapel of Saint Margaret's Lane just mentioned.
aint Margaret's was built to ease the lot of faithful folk by allowing them to hear their services read without having to make that considerable journey to the mother church of Chard. Round arches and saint's niche plainly show, from the outside, its use as a 'chapel of ease', but its life as a chapel was short. It is supposed to have been subsequently used as a cattleshed and a weaver's shop before becoming the chapel of the Particular Baptists in the early nineteenth century. The Particular Baptists continue to use it as a holiday home!
he parish industry from the fifteenth century was the weaving of broad and narrow cloths, both for home use and export. There are fine thatched dwellings throughout the parish which are witness to the prosperity that weaving brought. By 1800, the local trade in cloth making had fallen on bad times and the making of plain net (lace) started in the district. A factory opened in Perry Street, was successful, and found employment for countless men, women and children there for over 150 years. Some lace is still made there today.
he Chard to Taunton canal, opened in 1842, stopped a mile from the parish boundary and we had to await the long-delayed coming of the railway for a transport system.
he London and South Western line to Exeter opened its Chard Road or Chard Junction station in 1860 and three years later a short branch line, from Chard to the Great Western line at Taunton, gave nation-wide access to our rural community. When the railway came, our farmers had a good market outlet for milk, butter, cheese, timber and meat and the first milk factory buildings were put up by the railway line. Farming then prospered and this little factory, financed by a Colyton partnership, expanded into the huge complex that exists by the river Axe today.
here are vast deposits of gravel, laid down in pre-history, along the river Axe and these gravel beds have been quarried along the parish boundaries for a century. Gravel is still extracted there in considerable quantities.
atworth and Forton were part of the ecclesiastical parish of Chard until 1866, when the church, built in 1851, became the parish church of Tatworth, while Forton remains within Chard ecclesiastical parish.
he village school, opened in 1879, taught children from the ages of five to fourteen until 1925 and from that date pupils above the age of eleven have attended school in Chard. The lace factory owners of the early 1900's were willing providers of workers' amenities; they started association football and cricket teams, financed a brass band, a social club, four small almhouses and even a fire brigade. The football club claimed the honour of giving its name to the area's football league, The Perry Street League.
he latter half of the twentieth century has brought enormous changes to our community; the railway branch lines, which closed the canal, were themselves abandoned in the 1960's. The local station on the main line closed too and our nearest stations are now at Axminster and Crewkerne. Our parish very much relies on road transport for industry, commerce and personal travel but while piecemeal improvements have been effected on our roads we are distant from the main network of motorways. Access to motorway M5 however is easy and the routes A30, A303 and A358 serve us well. Like so many rural communities, our parish has in recent years seen a large increase in housing and population, while employment in agriculture fell sharply and modern technology has reduced the labour force. As a result of such changes the proportion of those living and working away from the parish has increased as has the number of retired people who have sought here the tranquility of a countryside combining the beauties and amenities of Somerset, Dorset and Devon.
ast history and continuing changes have produced here a bustling, thriving parish where social and sports facilities flourish.